The California Endowment, a nonprofit agency that provides grants to organizations helping to bring health care services to disadvantaged groups, is planning to move its operation from Woodland Hills to downtown Los Angeles.
The agency, which has hired Cushman Realty to help with its relocation, has doubled in size over the last 18 months, creating a need for more space than its current 50,000-square-foot office holds. At the same time, officials said that the agency would benefit from a location more central to Los Angeles.
Julie Tugend, vice president and chief operating officer for the California Endowment, said that while the agency is likely to maintain a presence in the San Fernando Valley, its regional headquarters needs to be accessible to grantees and grant seekers, the County Health Services Department and other public service agencies scattered from South Central Los Angeles to East San Bernardino.
The endowment, founded in 1996, was created as part of the merger agreement between Blue Cross of California and Wellpoint Health Networks Inc., a transaction that converted Blue Cross from a nonprofit organization to a for-profit corporation. The agency began with a small staff, primarily drawn from Blue Cross, which had been based in Warner Center, and the endowment set up its offices in the same area as a result.
Since then, however, the California Endowment has grown to an organization of 117 employees, mostly based out of the Woodland Hills offices, with assets of $2.6 billion. It has paid out grants totaling $432.6 million, with $169.2 million of that total spent in the fiscal year 1999-2000.
“This has been a real growth period,” Tugend said. “Half the staff had to double up in offices. We’re falling over each other.”
Among the grants the agency has provided is $25,000 for Children of the Night, a Van Nuys-based organization that provides services to runaways engaged in prostitution, and a Cal State Northridge program to encourage minority students to pursue medical and public health careers.
Downtown L.A. houses a cluster of charitable organizations, including the California Community Foundation, a leading philanthropy in the city, the Haynes Foundation and the charitable foundations of corporations such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
“What they’re trying to do is raise their profile and reach out to the broader community, and if you’re a little more accessible, it helps your effort,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
At the same time, Tugend pointed out that the traffic has worsened in the Los Angeles area, making it far more time-consuming to commute between the West San Fernando Valley and central Los Angeles communities as well as LAX.
“It used to be you had a counter-commute,” Tugend said. “Now if you’re commuting during commuter hours, it doesn’t matter which way you’re going. If we need to get an airplane because we’re statewide half the day is gone and it really is not efficient use of staff time.”
Cushman Realty has been hired to help California Endowment with its search for new space, sources said.